You can do all you can to teach good dental habits when they’re at home, but what about when they’re at school? Your children spend most of their days at school, where they’re influenced by friends, teachers, and peers. What goes on there can have a major impact on your child’s dental health.
You can’t monitor your children at school, of course. Schooltime is when your children learn to socialize, form their own independent identities, and stand up for themselves. How they maintain healthy habits at school is a strong indicator of how they’ll maintain them over their lifetimes. Here are some things you can do to reinforce their habits that don’t require dropping in at recess to remind them to brush.
Pack a Toothbrush
Tell your children it’s important they brush after every meal and show them how to use a toothbrush to clean their teeth. When they’re used to doing this, pack a toothbrush and a travel-sized tube of toothpaste to take to school. Put both in a discrete Ziploc bag and tuck it into a backpack. Remind them to brush their teeth after they’ve eaten lunch. Most other kids probably won’t be doing this, so explain to them the significance of brushing and let them know it’s ok to do things a bit differently than their peers.
This will have a two-fold benefit: your kids will have clean teeth throughout the day, and they’ll learn a small but meaningful way to be themselves. Taking care of their teeth at school might make them different, but that’s ok.
Pack the Right Lunch
Processed, sugary foods do nothing to help children’s teeth. What they eat at lunch has a great impact on whether their next visit to the dentist will be short and sweet, or whether there will be cavities and gum disease to deal with.
Children love sweet flavours, and having the “cool lunch” can be a big deal. Packing foods that preserve their teeth is more important than being top of the school food chain, however. Explain this to them and they’ll begin to understand the importance of keeping up healthy habits in spite of what their friends are doing.
Some good lunch ideas include:
- Turkey and cheddar roll-up with fresh berries
- Hummus and pita bread
- Hard-boiled eggs, baby carrots and ranch dressing
- Almond butter and jelly sandwich
- Macaroni and cheese
Many of these lunches contain cheese, which contains calcium that is essential for preserving strong and healthy teeth. They also contain fresh fruits and vegetables and protein, all of which play a role in good dental and overall health.
Replace Their Toothbrush
Toothbrushes should be replaced every three months. Back-to-school is a great prompt to do this. If you’re out buying pens, notebooks, and backpacks, why not add a toothbrush to the list?
Over time, toothbrush bristles become frayed, damaged, and less effective. New toothbrushes are better at removing plaque and are less likely to transfer bacteria back into the mouth. You should change your toothbrush after an illness as well. Buy two or three toothbrushes to have on hand until after the back-to-school sniffles subside.
Children tend to like soft-bristled toothbrushes that are gentle on their sensitive teeth and gums. They also like brightly coloured toothbrushes and enjoy choosing one themselves, allowing them to reflect their individuality in this simple way.
Wear a Mouthguard
If your children play any sports that involve contact, flying balls, or the chance of falling on their faces, a mouthguard is a very good idea.
Not only do they help prevent concussions, but a properly fitted mouthguard will prevent teeth from being knocked out of their proper position. You won’t be faced with the cost of emergency dental work, and your child won’t have nearly as painful an injury if they do acquire a blow to the mouth. Particularly if your child has or has had braces, a mouthguard can be a huge saviour for time, money, and stress.
Consider investing in a custom-made mouthguard. They may be a bit more expensive initially, but they are guaranteed to fit better than a generic, store-bought version, encouraging your child to wear it consistently. A mouthguard made specially for your child also allows for easier breathing and speaking, and protects better than a mass-produced version.
Book an Appointment
Back-to-school is the perfect time to book a dental checkup for your child. After the ice cream and popsicles of summer, chances are their mouths need a deep clean anyways. Back-to-school signifies a new beginning, a return to responsibility, and a chance to re-examine old habits. Booking a dental appointment at the start of the school year will set your child up with good dental habits while they’re in the mindset of learning, and before the holiday season with its accompanying parties and desserts.
Going back to school is a wonderful opportunity to instill better dental habits in your children. How they take care of themselves in and out of school will give them a healthy white smile, which will be easier to maintain over time. The right dental routine, a good diet, and regular checkups will ensure they have a beautiful smile for years to come.